Sbongakonke Mavundla runs to keep fit and healthy.
The 30-year old from Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, started running while at primary school, and the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon on Saturday is one of her favourite races.
Thousands of runners are set to descend on Cape Town for what is dubbed the “world’s most beautiful marathon”.
The first marathon in 1970 started off with 26 runners. Since then, it has become a world event that attracts about
26 000 participants across all the distances – the 56km ultra marathon, the 21km half marathon and various trail and fun runs.
It’s a gruelling test for recreational and professional runners, offering a challenging experience with steep ascents and descents.
“I ran my first 42.2km marathon in 2013 and to date I have run more than 12 marathons, including an ultra under my belt. Every race starts with the aim to cross the finish line. No matter how tired I get during the race, the mind takes over my tired legs and I run with my heart,” says Mavundla.
Competitive distance running requires a lot of hard work as it’s a sport that tests your physical and mental strength, she explains.
“From Monday to Saturday I train with my running club, Legogote Villagers Running Club, and two days a week I train with my club and cross train on my own. My training programme includes an easy 5km jog or 30 minutes spinning, leg massage, foam rolling and stretching… the bonus is that I get to eat whatever I want,” she says.
“The night before the race I eat either pasta and steamed hake or a grilled steak and mashed potatoes, with lots of water throughout the day. And on race day, breakfast is cooked oats, a spoon of peanut butter and half a glass of water,” she says.
Expresso presenter Katlego Maboe is training for his first half marathon. Partnering with sportsgear company Adidas, and under the guidance of sports-scientist Professor Ross Tucker, the challenge is part of his #NewLifeSolution – to do things that take him out of his comfort zone, he explains.
“Over the past year, I have been pursuing what I have termed a #NewLifeSolution, which is a plan on the idea of a new year’s resolution that everyone undertakes at the start of a new year. What makes it different for me is that I make these commitments that challenge me in the pursuit of not just being a better version of myself this year, but doing so for the rest of my life,” he says.
“So far, my challenge has been maintaining a high level of intense running for a sustained period of time because my muscles have not done this kind of training before.
“Part of the challenge has also been learning and understanding what it takes to run like long distance athletes, conserving and managing energy levels while thinking about things like stride rate, pace and splits,” says Maboe.
“From a mental point of view I’ve realised that my body is capable of doing more than it feels. I’ve been able to run further at times when my muscles felt fatigued because I was able to conquer the challenge mentally. And physically I have become leaner because my training is more running focused than weight training,” he adds.
According to Wikipedia, it is assumed that the ancestors of mankind developed the ability to run for long distances about 2.6 million years ago, probably in order to hunt animals. Records of competitive racing date back to the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1829.
Much has changed since then, with technology having a huge influence on the modern running world. There are running shoes that can withstand the world’s toughest terrains, as well as gadgets and apps that can help you get through the run. It’s no surprise that the sport is a growing fitness trend. A number of running movements are active on social media. The running community connects by using hashtags such as #loverunning and #worldrunners to motivate and compete with each other.
“In 1970, running was a niche sport that only dedicated runners participated in. You saw this in the numbers of people who ran, and also their performances. Then for a range of reasons the movement began to encourage people who would never in a million years have thought of themselves as runners to get moving,” says Tucker. “It was driven mainly by health, but there was also a mental, emotional and even spiritual component to it.
“If you were to design a marketing campaign to get people to run, you could not do better than what happened by accident back in the early 1970s. People started running because it was empowering, healthy, social, you name it,” he says.
That changed the composition of runners as a group enormously.
Before, a runner was recognised as someone who was fast, skinny, and built to run.
Now, when you look at a photograph of a big race like the Two Oceans, you see every shape, height, and performance level, explains Tucker.
“Within that group, you will find far, far fewer people who are obese, unhealthy, unfit. That’s proof that running works, and it also attracts people who are of a certain type. But basically, the big shift is that the barriers were removed, and running went mainstream around 46 years ago,” Tucker explains.
“Every few years, that shift gets a helpful bump too. Oprah runs, millions of women follow. Health knowledge advances, people respond. And because running is so accessible, it’s the one that so many go to when they want to take control of their health and life.”